Residents of Champagne Heights are delighted with the opening of a new laundromat | New


SOUTH KINGSTOWN, RI – Cali Babbitt-Spears cried for joy Monday when her multi-year efforts to open a laundry room in Champagne Heights finally came true.

The South Kingstown Housing Authority, which manages the subsidized housing community of Champagne Heights, marked the opening of the new facility at 364 Curtis Corner Road with a ribbon cutting and tour, attended by residents and city officials .

The laundry room, located in the same building as the housing management office and the conference room, takes over a former garage.

Seven new washing machines and seven coin-operated tumble dryers, as well as space for folding tables and sorters, are available to residents. Two washers and two dryers are large capacity models.

“It’s been a long time coming and it was a much requested feature,” said Laura Lee Costello, executive director of the Housing Authority.

Opening a laundry room isn’t usually greeted with fanfare, but circumstances were different in Champagne Heights after what turned into a long struggle finally paid off.

Babbitt-Spears, a South Kingstown resident, launched a campaign to get a laundromat on site almost 10 years ago, when she still resided in Champagne Heights.

She and other residents of nearby Champagne Heights and Fournier Estates have petitioned the authority for laundry facilities.

In 2015, she wrote a letter to the editor explaining that although tenants had laundry hookups in their apartments, they were not allowed to use them.

“I used to wash my children’s clothes in the tub and in the kitchen sink,” she said. “And hang them on the outside.”

Other subsidized housing in the state allowed tenants to use hookups in their apartments, she said. But she and others have encountered resistance, she said, from former members of the housing board. She also said a former director of the housing authority was breaking federal law by denying residents’ requests.

After several years and changes in the staff of the Housing Authority, as well as obtaining the necessary funding, the project was finally launched. Babbitt-Spears was successful in convincing city council and the authority to apply for a grant for the work, she said.

“I will always stand up for residents of a low income community,” she said.

Residents will have access to the space daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. – and this is for residents only. Each household will receive an electronic key card to enter the room, which is also monitored by a video camera.

For Edna Yemoh and most of the residents, the laundry room was essential. Before that, one of their few options was to wash clothes at a commercial facility elsewhere, trucking in bags, baskets, and piles of dirty clothes weekly or more often.

“It is a much needed facility, especially for large families,” said Yemoh, a parent of seven. “It’s a big help.

When she first moved here, Yemoh first took her laundry to Providence, where she previously lived, to wash it.

She then found a local business option, but even that was very expensive. The new machines each charge $ 2 per cycle, which she says is more economical.

Tenants were able to start using the machines Monday afternoon, and city council member Deborah Bergner and others donated several large new bottles of detergent for the facility.

Costello said work on the project began in May, after even more delays due to COVID and supply chain issues. The work was completed this month.

Housing Authority Chairman Christopher Little thanked local, state and federal officials, as well as his colleague Susan Jacobsen, who played a key role in approving state funding, he said. .

He also credited the residents with having two key qualities that made the laundry center a reality: patience and persistence.

“The people have lived without it for a long time,” he said.

Funding of approximately $ 360,000 in the form of community development block grants was provided to pay for the project, and contractor Craig Sutton carried out the work.

Self-described early riser Yemoh said she wished the room could open at 5 a.m., but agreed to enter at 8 a.m., she said. .

“I can fold my laundry, I can do anything here. It’s wonderful, ”Yemoh said. “Now I can do it weekly or as needed. “

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